POWAY, Calif. (KGTV) - Students across San Diego County are returning to school, but not all of them are going back to a classroom.
Some families are choosing to keep their kids in remote programs.
Joe Gizzo is one of the 12 hand-selected teachers that helped build Connect Academy. The remote digital learning program is located on the Park Village Elementary Campus in the Poway Unified School District.
"We are a small but mighty team of teachers and administrators and support staff," Gizzo said. "And we love our students, and we love what we do."
Part of what they do involves letting the students guide them.
"We build community, we build relationships," he said. "And if we can see the students' interests and passions and we can guide our teaching towards them, it brings them in."
Students have the option of coming on campus a couple of days a week, working in the garden, or doing other hands-on projects.
Jill Halsey is the director of Connect Academy Digital Learning and Poway Home Education.
"More and more families are wanting a flexible experience, and really, the future of education looks hybrid," said Halsey.
Families choose the hybrid option for a variety of reasons, not just out of concern for COVID-19, said Gizzo.
California law no longer requires districts to offer a virtual option, but many districts still do, including Poway, San Diego Unified, Sweetwater and San Dieguito.
"We are always looking to find new innovative, creative ways of teaching cause that brings kids in," said Gizzo.
Still, some parents have had it with the way public school districts handled the pandemic.
"The biggest complaint is that she wasn't receiving the education that my tax dollars goes to pay for," said parent Melissa Grace.
Grace pulled her daughter out of her school in the San Diego Unified School District. The 8th grader is now in a home-based independent study program through the district.
"All of the prerequisites that children have been put under over the last two years just to participate in in-person education has been a complete disregard for the involvement of the parents," said Grace.
Grace says if California requires students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for the next school year, she'll completely take her out of public school.
Currently, districts are not required to track vaccination status, and many don't.
Back in Poway, teachers are excited about a new year.
"As our learners evolve, we must evolve," said Gizzo.
Roughly 200 students are signed up for the remote program.